Millennial writer Christopher White writes:
I spent the better part of June in France, much of it talking to Catholic leaders, seminarians, and rectors. The subject of Hamel’s death was always among the first to come up and I was particularly curious how younger priests viewed the witness of this older martyr.
One young priest in Paris put it to me like this: “Hamel was an ordinary priest from a very different generation than mine. Too often we’ve tended to label priests of his era as more liberal, or even less Catholic, than the priests of my generation. His martyrdom now serves as a bridge and I think many of us in the younger generation now have a special devotion to him.”
The turbulent years following Vatican II presented undeniable changes and challenges for the priesthood and the universal Church. Different factions within the Church effectively took sides-be it in debates over liturgical matters or political engagement – and many of the results have been less than edifying. Such tribalism has persisted and is particularly evident in the Francis era where there has been no shortage of those willing to exploit these divisions within the Church.
The extraordinary response to Hamel’s martyrdom throughout France has been one of unity and an abiding belief that his sacrifice would yield a greater good for both the Church and the country. It was a moment in which differences between self-described “traditionalists” and “Vatican II” Catholics were put aside and as that young Parisian priest said to me, “we were reminded that we were primarily all Catholics first.”
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